Downtown parking study yields suggested changes

Downtown parking study yields suggested changes

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The results of a parking study in downtown Albany conducted last year may have shown no dire parking problem in the area but it did map out more than two dozen suggestions for improvement. 

Rick Williams Consulting, a parking and transportation firm from Portland, examined parking in downtown Albany, monitoring vehicles on Saturday, April 20, and Thursday, May 16 after consulting with city staff. It found that parking was not constrained, noting, “Where constraints do occur, there is more than adequate supplies of parking adjacent to the constraint or within walking distance.”

Williams gave his initial report to the Albany Revitalization Area in July and on Monday went before the Albany City Council with about 30 suggestions and strategies for the board to consider. 

According to the data Williams' firm collected, there are about 5,000 spots between on and off-street parking in the downtown area. At any given time, parking does not reach the industry standard of being 85% occupied to classify parking as inadequate. At peak times, Williams said, parking stalls reached a maximum of 42.5% occupancy. 

On Monday, Williams told the Council that while parking is currently adequate, now was the time to consider planning for the future. According to the report, possible new businesses or development would not constrain the existing parking supply in the near-to-mid-future but long-term, there were things for the Council to consider. 

Williams suggested that the city continue allowing the downtown parking work group to continue operating, to continue gathering data and to consider altering the time restraints on current parking stalls. 

Currently, more than half the stalls in the downtown area are unregulated, meaning there is no time limit attached to them. Others are limited to three hours or 30 minutes. Williams suggested regulating all stalls. 

He also suggested that the city consider a shared-use model with local businesses that own private lots in the downtown. According to Williams, employee parking could be moved to private lots rather than park on the street. The city could charge a fee for those lots with the money going to the business minus an administrative fee. 

Other suggestions including examining multiple funding sources for a future parking garage and renaming city lots in accordance to their address. 

"The reason is," he said, "We're hearing from customers... they don't know where they are."

Naming the lots after the cross street they're located on, he said, would clear up that confusion. 

An online survey offered by the firm showed that residents' top concern was employee parking. Suggestions that fell to the bottom of the list included funding a new parking structure and upgrading parking enforcement technology. 

Economic Development Manager Seth Sherry told the Council that staff would compile some of Williams' suggestions to implement and bring the issue back before the board at a later date. 

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